Transhuman or translucid II
More Light on: The Drive behind Creativity – Passion or Obsession?
A cellist fervently practices for an upcoming concert until she manages to express precisely what the score means to her. A scientist works feverishly to develop a neuro-technology that will soon allow his blind brothers to see. Passion can be an extremely energy-laden stimulus for creativity, as we so clearly see in the painters of bold gestures, such as Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly, whose inner drive manifests itself in their powerfully expressive lines, which range from delicate to wildly energetic.
A similarly energetic drive impels the work of many scientists, devoted to the transhuman movement, to advance research, new discoveries, and technological innovations that could one day prove useful in creating the transhuman. Skeptical ethicists barely have the time to analyze these daily innovations and their ethical consequences for the future of humanity. Everyone else, meanwhile, including the majority of legislators, have little idea anymore — with all this talk about artificial intelligence and humanoid robots, or dreams of eternal life — what is science fiction and was is already scientific and technical reality. The scientists work with a blossoming creativity that resembles that of their forerunners (or fore-thinkers) in science fiction literature. This is reason enough to look more carefully at the sources and the quality of creativity in human society.
“Crucially, there isn’t one emotion uniquely beneficial for creativity. The secret is in how we use the pleasant and unpleasant experiences towards creativity,” writes Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D., in her article “Creativity Runs on Passion: How the Joy and Stress of Passion Fuels Creativity and Innovation,” (link posted on Oct 24th, 2019, on our site under “Psychology News.”)
Almost anyone would immediately understand and accept that creativity and passion go hand in hand. So I was perplexed when I read of the “stress of passion.” Based on my own horizon of experience, this struck me as an oxymoron, and an interesting opportunity to explore the origins of the word “passion,” and to examine its meaning with regard to creativity and emotions a bit more precisely. The word passion has traditionally carried positive connotations, denoting some drive that arises from a loving inspiration — be it erotic love, or in the general love we see in everyday life: compassion with one’s fellow man, love for nature, or love for animals. If this love is directed toward an activity, it will boost our drive and our creative potential within that activity. In this regard, the word “passion” has proved useful to the advertising industry: “passion” is used for all leisure activities that necessitate the purchase of products: driving, skiing, surfing, mountain climbing, paragliding, etc. The word is also a favorite of the perfume industry. The breath of the erotic that wafts from this word seems to sex up everything it is applied to. But the word’s widespread use has begun to render it banal, and its connotations are no longer what they once were. Over time it is used for anything that anyone does with intense engagement, investment of time, and persistence.
The founder of a company works with extreme creative engagement to get the company off the ground. Transhumanists work with the same extreme creative engagement on their project of immortality, some of them driven by the urge of realizing their goal prior to their own death. Writers bring creative engagement to their work, with which they spread something of their own world of ideas and their range of experience. For a writer, some ideal purpose usually informs this creative engagement, which extends beyond the pursuit of some technically or societally achievable project. For any profession that primarily uses words to pursue its goal, one must examine the purpose and the drive that lie concealed behind those words. This includes writers, philosophers, politicians, teachers, preachers of all religions, and journalists, to name the most important — not to mention commercial advertising experts and professional political propagandists.
Linguists should have much more of a public, popular-scientific presence on the Internet in order to shed light on the manipulative use of language. After all, the ability to read and understand words precisely is more important today than ever before. In that spirit, let’s take a more careful look at the etymology and range of meanings of the word “passion.” Certainly, in many creative professional fields, one often works with great passion, but often, on the other hand, with a good deal of stress and negative emotions. Does such stress, or such negative emotions, have anything to do with passion? Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and author of many books (see links to his articles on translucidmind.com, under “News – Spirituality/Psychology,” and his books under “Books”) also works with energetic creative engagement, and yet he does so, in all likelihood, with little or no stress. His aim is to spread his ideas about compassionate altruism.
Passion and compassion. Already we begin to suspect that not all of the creative engagement of the aforementioned professions can be traced back to the same inspiration behind the etymology of the word “passion.” The element of loving devotion that extends beyond creative engagement seems necessarily linked to the origin of the word “passion.”
The etymology reaches back to the Latin verb patior, pati, passus, which means:
to experience something
to be affected by something
to acquiesce, to let something happen
to devote oneself
The Latin noun passio derives from this verb. The standard dictionaries found online primarily contain entries related to the Christ’s suffering and acceptance of fate. In original Latin texts, one encounters much more often the meaning of endurance or acquiescence to external circumstances or events, or of accepting one’s fate. The word is also related to spiritual affects, and affection.
The word “passion” seems to involve a certain passivity of acceptance, of humility — an acceptance of events and signs that do not arise from one’s own will, but are rather impulses whose source lies outside one’s own consciousness. Each perception of such an impulse means an expansion of consciousness beyond its previous limits. Any creative person who has experienced such moments of insight will likely infuse their work with the inspiration of awe, love, passion, and compassion. Passionate creativity comes from a surrendering and loving emotional impulse; it is a playful and flexible creativity that originates in a loving flow. And we might find, even in highly ambitious people, a kind of surrendering acceptance if the goal is not reached.
This claim cannot be made for all creative strivings. Love and compassion are not always the engines of creativity, as the author of the introductory quotation explains; various unpleasant emotions can be as well. Rage, annoyance, frustration, fear: a gnawing drive to complete a task that can become obsessive. Most people are familiar with an obsessive creativity that is imagined as the opposite of passionate creativity: even a task begun in a happy kind of flow can — due to a time crunch, pressure to succeed, or thirst for recognition — end in a phase of obsessive work. It’s good if we can notice this and admit it to ourselves — take a break, take a deep breath, and, if necessitated by reasonable doubt, simply let go. Anything else would turn the work into an obsession. Here too, a look at the Latin origins of the word “obsession” is revelatory.
The etymology of “obsession” reaches back to the Latin word obsideo, obsidere, obsedi, obsessum, for which the site navigium.de lists the following meanings:
to sit, to stay
to occupy, to enclose, to surround
to lurk, to wait to catch
to take possession of
From this verb, in turn, is derived the noun obsessio, meaning:
This is how the word is used today in psychology, for behaviors that result from emotional blockages, that close themselves off from any surrender to feeling, fate, or accident, and that strive with all their might to achieve or maintain power over a situation. This is the opposite of an ability to let go; it is an almost compulsive desire to take into possession.
Obsessive creativity springs from a desire for control and power, from a need for possession, and is strongly related to a fear of failure, or to fear in general, to self-doubt, or even to a sense that we are unworthy unless we achieve something great, or unless we gain control over all our fears, including the fear of death. In such cases, all of one’s creative intelligence is used to conceal the origin of an unpleasant emotion or feeling of impotence. It is a creative zest that rigidly pursues an idea, project, or thought, while disregarding any sense of loving flow or even reasonable limits. It can, of course, be highly intelligent, and doggedly pursue its goal. Both historically and today, political spheres provide numerous examples of a highly intelligent creativity that is simultaneously Machiavellian or tyrannical, rife with phantasies of omnipotence, and could not be further removed from real passion. Quite the contrary: a lack of compassion does not allow a person to truly see, or want to see, other people. Such a person will, with great likelihood, very skillfully deny the mechanisms of lies and manipulation he deploys, while all the more stubbornly projecting them onto other people and decrying them.
People driven by obsessive creativity might neglect ethical concerns, show little concern for the shared fate of their fellow humans or of the planet, and even go so far as to harm and hurt each other in pursuit of their goal, beginning with unfair and dishonest competitive strategies. Meanwhile, people driven by a passionate creativity will never disregard ethical concerns, sacrifice good will, or harm others just to achieve their goals.
The psychic character of creative people is decisive for their ways of creating. Someone who is wearing emotional armor in a bio-energetic sense will find it very difficult to perceive moments of impassioned joy, or to accept them as true — much less to submit to them. A person who is emotionally inhibited due to emotional injuries of all kinds, especially traumas of childhood and other fear-related traumas, is also unlikely to be capable of such a passively enduring “flow” known to passionate people. Such a person will want to control their unpleasant emotions, just like situations, other people, ideas, or politics — he either uses power, or will always feel powerless, and therefore fearful. What the emotionally open person perceives as blissful devotion, will appear to an emotionally armored person as an unbearable surrender of self-control.
The psychological literature dealing with trauma, fear-driven neuroses, emotional armoring and fear of death could fill entire libraries, so I’ll limit myself to mentioning, in particular, the writings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich (especially Character Analysis and The Functions of the Orgasm – see links under “Books”, translucidmind.com), who, with his decades-long clinical experience, created in the early 20th century the foundation for our psychological understanding of fear and neurotic armoring.
The distinction between a passionate drive and an obsessive drive can be usefully applied in many areas of human activity. Place one of these two words before given noun, and you’ll effectively signify a major difference:
Passionate sense of justice
Obsessive sense of justice
An obsessive drive will generally push someone further to get what they want; so strong is their need to prove themselves as empowered, and to avoid losing control. There is always the risk that an obsessive intention or strong will might turn into ill-will, manipulation, defamation, or Machiavellian strategies — and, unfortunately, it may prove extremely, even creatively inventive, sometimes all the more so as the goal seems less achievable. This is what makes tyrannical politicians, extremists, terrorists, fascists and psychopaths so dangerous (see translucidmind.com, under “Books” – Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism).
On the contrary, a passionate creativity that is un-obsessed, and driven at most by nothing but a loving will for beauty and good-will towards all, might sometimes make people stop too early in their pursuit of a goal, because here there is no emotional urge; the creative mind is quiet and peaceful. And why continue to pursue something that, it seems, will never find general approval in the media and among the public — that is, never find success. This means that the best minds among us, the emotionally healthiest and best-intentioned, go unheard all too often in our societies.
Thankfully, there are a great number of books and other pieces of literature that passionately express humanity’s ethical challenges; highly promising scientific insights are being used to elucidate the highly efficient intelligence of passionate and compassionate creators. In The Flip (see translucidmind.com, under “Books”), Jeffrey J. Kripal points out, with passionate engagement, what those moments of coincidence, or synchronicities, are, namely serendipities that can guide a person toward a path or idea through a sudden inspiration that they submit to, as reported by many scientists and philosophers. He identifies such key concepts as the “building blocks” (ibid. page 28) of religious experience, which seem to correspond to Sigmund Freud’s “inner experience” (see my last blog “More Light on: The New Religion of Transhumanism and the Old Soul Freedom of Multidimensionaltiy”, September 26th 2019, translucidmind.com)
Neuroscience is now confirming many of those theses that clinical psychologists first established empirically. By working with people with decades of spiritual training through meditation, the brain is being studied while in such states. Neuroscience has found that such moments are best perceived when the brain is in a relaxed yet highly concentrated state, in which not only gamma brainwaves are present, but also — and without fail — theta brainwaves ( see links to articles related to the topic under “Neuroscience” at translucidmind.com).
Reaching this state requires the inner peace of a wide-reaching clarity concerning oneself and one’s spiritual wounds, which are gradually relieved through the practice of concentrated deep breathing. Dr. Wilhelm Reich held such deep breathing to be necessary for breaking up the neurotic muscular “armor” that, as we nowadays know, manifests itself in the form of so-called “freeze” states in certain parts of the brain, the hippocampus and the amygdala (see translucidmind.com, under “Neuroscience,” the link to the article “Amygdala Hijack and the Fight or Flight Response” by Steven Gans, MD, and also my book Translucid.). Today we know that such freeze-states can be alleviated even in adults, allowing new neural circuits to be formed, and a greater brain plasticity to be achieved.
This higher plasticity is always linked with a greater synchronization and connectivity between various regions of the brain, which is significantly heightened when the brain is in gamma-wave states. In the best case, as shown by Buddhists with many years of meditation experience, and. by those who have spent many years listening to classical music with intense concentration, the gamma-wave state becomes the brain’s permanent state. The gamma-wave state is accompanied by:
Awe, a sense of humility, of acknowledging oneself as a small part of something much greater
A feeling of connectedness with other human beings
A sense of connectedness with one’s surroundings, and the cosmos
Outstanding intelligence and creativity
An intuitive processing of information, which is closely linked to:
passio — a loving devotion to the tasks and coincidences that life presents;
experiences of gaining information through such coincidences or synchronicities, serendipities that have, quite unexpectedly, an ultimate power to convince, allowing one to speak of:
Clairvoyant and telepathic experience
The gamma-wave state of a brain with maximum connectivity of the brain seems to characterize many creative people working at the very highest level. Albert Einstein is always cited in this regard; not only did he admit to a kind of “cosmic religiosity” (see his quote in the introduction to Translucidmind at translucidmind.com), he also recognized the role played by sudden intuition in his work. Einstein had a wide-ranging general education, and maintained a friendly scientific exchange with Dr. Wilhelm Reich, until his insights into biophysical phenomena were no longer compatible with Einstein’s theories.
„A human being is part of the whole, called by us the „Universe,“ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affections for a few persons near us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation of our inner security.” (Jeffrey J. Kripal, The Flip, page 168, see link under “Books” at translucidmind.com ).
Einstein had another reason to thank for the high connectivity of his brain: a significantly larger-than-normal corpus callosum. This points to a significantly higher connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain. This brain physiognomy also, arguably, denotes an inclination to gamma-wave and theta-wave states, as research into exceptional brain states in the psychedelic realm seems to indicate: many moments of so-called expansion of consciousness occur in the presence of gamma- and theta-waves, and are accompanied by changes in the activity of the right hemisphere of the brain (as I discuss in my book Translucid).
We can conclude that higher states of consciousness and intellectual creativity have to do with. a higher connectivity and flexibility of brain processes. The spontaneous and highly creative reaction of people in such states of consciousness to an external impulse, which is often referred to as “inspiration” or “intuition,” makes it possible for consciousness-expanding information to be gathered from the current cosmic actuality, information that a human being could never gain in any other way — as witnessed over the centuries, alongside Albert Einstein, by many philosophers, scientists, and artists.
The involuntary devotion to a link to a cosmic actuality that creatively influences our consciousness is actualized in the loving passion and compassion that we defined etymologically, and to which Einstein refers to as the “compassion to embrace all.” Its highest stage seems to be what has been referred to for centuries as the unio mystica — the mystic union — and which we might call, relying on Rousseau’s distinction between the mystical mind and the cosmic mind (see my blog “More Light on: The New Religion of Transhumanism and the Old Soul Freedom of Multidimensionaltiy”, September 26th 2019, translucidmind.com, and my book Translucid), an unio cosmica. Tantric literature refers to the highest state as Samadhi Sahaja . More recently, neuroscience has tied this experience with highly elevated activity of theta- and gamma-waves in the brain, as observed in REM sleep, and in the related state of translucid dreaming. These are states of extreme relaxation and calm, which, in the best case, allow information to be obtained that would normally be out of the reach of our consciousness: clarity and control within dreams, intuitive insight during deep meditation or a kind of highly concentrated wakeful dreaming, and access to memories that were previously inaccessible to consciousness. Based on research into the theta-wave state, neuroscience is now studying the phenomena of clairvoyance and telepathy.
The self-aware consciousness that is passionately loving, that submits to and is dissolved in the unio cosmica (in loving passio) is the extreme end of the range of human consciousness and creativity. A person who is passionate in this way will work and pursue new paths in a relatively stress-free way, in the sense of a compassionate connectedness with everything around him.
Opposed to this is the militant creativity of the psychically limited consciousness that strives for the recognition and identity of his own ego-self, that fights to enforce his ideas and maintain his psychically defensive “I” with all means available, and obsessively insists on his own rectitude. The obsessive urge for achievement can meet with astonishing success, be it economically or scientifically.
Knowledge is power. Power-obsession, power-possession as forms of maximum control. In the future, anyone with the financial power to develop and possess the best computers and artificial brains will have unprecedented power over humanity. It is not all too far-fetched to assume that some of the true motives and intentions behind the transhumanist movement reside in this battle of those who own the best computers for supreme power over humanity. And they may well have it already, since, up to this point, the highly developed gamma-wave and theta-wave spirits in humanity have not managed to prevent it.
Copyright Susanne Steines, 7th of November 2019, translation to the English by Mark R. Pettus, Ph.D. at Princeton University